Duplicity and “Human Nature”
“Duplicity is the currency of the day”, Pope Francis recently stated. It is quite true. The Late Modern Mind is schizophrenic, and that is manifestly the case in so many ways, inclusive of the strange “double-movement” of our times identified by Jean Gebser. It’s the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde problem. It’s the “Era of Pretense,” aptly named by Mr. Greer. It’s the radical divorce of rhetoric and reality, of the dissonance between words and deeds. It’s the epidemic of hypocrisy. It’s dilemma and dichotomy and the polarisation of the personality in the sectoralisation and compartmentalisation of the mind illustrated by the phenomenon of “symbolic belief“. It is our own “four riders of the apocalypse” in the form of double-talk, double-think, double-standard, and double-bind. It is, as H.G. Wells once put it also, the Modern Mind now “at the end of its tether”.
The seed-germ of this contemporary schizophrenia was planted by Rene Descartes and “metaphysical dualism” — the untenable proposition that there are two incommensurate principles operative in the universe, mind and matter, or consciousness and body, or subject and object, “Ego and It”. This dichotomisation of Being into two contradictory and antagonistic principles has become untenable, and the duplicity of the day is a reflection of the fact that this mode of thinking has reached, simultaneously, both its zenith and its nadir, both its apotheosis and its final degradation.
Dualistic thinking, or compartmentalisation, is, of course, largely blind and oblivious to this paradox and coincidentia oppositorum or conjunction of the contraries, where Athena and the Gorgon, Minerva and the Medusa, are revealed as being one and the same. But the principle in play here is the principle of enantiodromia, or reversal of fortune at the extremity. The extremity is called “hubris” and the reversal is called “Nemesis”. The symptoms of enantiodromia or dynamic conjunction of the contraries is what we call “perverse outcome”, “unintended consequence”, “ironic reversal”, “revenge effect”, “self-contradiction”, “self-defeating”, or “blowback”. It has even become the subject of scholarly study and investigation.
Enantiodromia is, however, only another interpretation of the karmic law of action and reaction. The term “Cadmean victory“, a victory that is simultaneously one’s own ruin and defeat, is likewise a reference to enantiodromia, or coincidentia oppositorum. Francis Fukuyama’s triumphalist “end of history” screed was, in effect, just such a “Cadmean victory”, and is pretty much the gist of Nietzsche’s insight that the victory of liberal institutions would be simultaneously their defeat (meaning, essentially, the bourgeoisie, capitalism, the free market, perhaps even liberal democracy itself, etc), because Nietzsche saw, with some prescience as William Blake did before him, that “Modern ideas” contained the seed-germ of their own self-negation in “two centuries of nihilism” in which the dynamic of modernity would eventually turn round and begin to devour itself. This has indeed come to pass, and is what we are calling “malaise of modernity” or “dilemma” or even “postmodernity”.
Duplicity is stress and distress. It is fracture and schism and dis-integration. And it is in this context of “two centuries of nihilism” that the pressure and urgency for a new integration, a new “mutation” of consciousness, finds its justification. It is no luxury of idle minds, but arises from a deep inner impulse, and it likewise takes many forms, some of which are aberrant and defective responses — authoritarianism or totalitarianism. And the temptations towards this kind of response are likely to get worse. It would, of course, be the logical endgame and recourse of an era and a consciousness structure that has finally collapsed and disintegrated completely, “hoist on [its] own petard” as it were.
Certainly, the pessimism of the intellectuals about the future of mind during and after the period 1914-1945, which found expression in any number of dystopian novels (Huxley, Wells, Orwell, Levin) was a final disillusionment, when the Enlightenment enthusiasm for “the infinite perfectibility of man” foundered on the shoals of “human nature”. But “human nature” is not an insurmountable problem. The struggle for a new integration, a new “universal history” in the face of the discrediting and “deconstruction” of the old “Grand Narrative”, is simultaneously a task of self-overcoming and of transcending “human nature” as it has been hitherto understood. This pressure and stress and need calls upon as yet unused or underutilised resources and faculties of the soul that will be, and must be, made increasingly more explicit and manifest, even if it requires passing through the crucible of havoc and hell.
And speaking of havoc and hell, I have to thank Peter Pogany’s daughter, Eva Pogany Atkinson, for alerting us to the posthumous publication of her father’s last work, Havoc, Thy Name is Twenty-First Century: Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order. It’s a pretty bleak assessment of the final resolution and endgame of the modern dilemma and dichotomy based on an interpretation of the laws of thermodynamics, following in the footsteps of his larger work Rethinking the World. Gebser, and his anticipation of a new “mutation” in the form of integral consciousness however, does come to play a prominent part in Havoc.
What will it take to go from considering tightened modes of multilateral governance a monstrous dystopia to people around the world on their knees begging for a planetary Magna Carta that is more detailed, focused and enforceable than the United Nations Charter of 1945? It will take nothing less than a mutation in consciousness, as outlined by the Swiss thinker, Jean Gebser (1905-1973). But a mutation of the implied magnitude amounts to nothing less than a break with centuries of ingrained habits, values, and expectations. It is simply inconceivable without the hard fate of macrohistoric turmoil….The world lives suspended over an abyss. To appreciate its depth one must recognize that whereas “1914-1945” was the price paid for a mere historic adaptation, the impending turbulence must yield a transformation of evolutionary significance…. The new chaotic transition will start between now and the 2030s; and, barring a miracle, it will turn the world into a charnel house on a scale that will make the destruction, gore, and horrific imbecilities of “1914-1945” look like a mere prologue.
Peter Pogany (2015-10-23). Havoc, Thy Name Is Twenty-First Century!: Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order (Kindle Locations 87-89). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.
Appreciating the book requires some understanding of the laws of energy and thermodynamics, but becoming familiar with that is well worth the while, as it is becoming the new “paradigm” in science, inclusive of Rosenstock-Huessy’s social philosophy and his “ecodynamic laws” of society.
There is, indeed, a new consciousness in the making. But it is very likely also to be one forged in the crucible of fire and pain.